What You Might’ve Missed: Alexander’s anticipation

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GREEN BAY – Packers rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander deserves the praise he’s getting for keeping Falcons star receiver Julio Jones in check, especially after the first drive of the game.

But a closer look at the film shows it was more than just his work on Jones that made a difference in Green Bay’s victory. It was Alexander’s anticipation – both involving Jones’ routes and others’ – that stood out in an impressive performance for the first-round draft pick.

Here’s a handful of noteworthy snaps.

Play No. 1: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 21, first quarter, 2:24 left

Result: Incomplete pass

Throughout the game, Alexander mixed up whether he pressed Jones at the line of scrimmage or played off. Here he’s off a few yards, but watch how quickly he jumps Jones’ out route toward the sideline, which causes Falcons QB Matt Ryan to think twice about throwing it that direction. Ryan eventually chooses to go elsewhere and doesn’t connect.

Play No. 2: Third-and-8 from the Green Bay 19, first quarter, 1:34 left

Result: 16-yard loss

Two plays later, it’s Alexander’s anticipation of a potential pass in the flat to RB Tevin Coleman (26) that wrecks the play and Atlanta’s drive. As Coleman leaks out of the backfield, watch how quickly Alexander breaks toward him. Again, it causes Ryan to think twice, but this time he had already cocked his arm and he loses the ball when he tries to hold back. The huge loss of yardage set up a long field goal attempt, which was missed.

Play No. 3: Second-and-16 from the Atlanta 45, second quarter, 3:45 left

Result: Completion to Coleman for a loss of 4 yards

Here again are Alexander’s cat-quick reflexes on display as Coleman slips out for a screen pass. Alexander sees what’s happening and attacks this play long before Ryan even throws the ball. As it turns out, rookie DL Tyler Lancaster (95) is all over it, too, and wraps up Coleman for the tackle for loss, but if any help from the secondary had been needed, Alexander made sure C Alex Mack (51) had no chance to block him.

Play No. 4: Second-and-5 from the Atlanta 29, third quarter, 5:19 left

Result: Defensive holding

This play doesn’t go Green Bay’s way, as rookie CB Josh Jackson (37) is flagged for defensive holding in the middle of the field. But it’s worth showing because of how smoothly Alexander stays with Jones and practically runs his route right along with him. As with many of these plays, it’s a combination of film study, instincts and speed that make Alexander such an impact player.

Play No. 5: Third-and-1 from the Green Bay 35, fourth quarter, 1:30 left

Result: Completion to RB Ito Smith (25) for no gain

The game is over by this point but Alexander hasn’t stopped anticipating the Falcons’ every move. Here Atlanta needs just one yard to convert and Ryan throws a simple checkdown to Smith. But Alexander stays a step ahead, gets there in plenty of time, and breaks down for a solid tackle, forcing a fourth down.

Play No. 6: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 27, fourth quarter, :50 left

Result: Incomplete pass

Two plays later, Alexander is in zone coverage with WR Russell Gage (83) in his area. As Ryan looks that way, Alexander makes a quick move to close off space, and Ryan thinks better of it and holds the ball. He instead tries a deep shot into double coverage that falls incomplete.

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